Harrah’s barred from taking bets on NBA Finals

LAS VEGAS — It’ll be a little bit harder to get in on the action in the NBA finals.

Harrah Entertainment Inc., owner of 13 casinos in Nevada, is barred from taking bets on the Lakers-Celtics series.

That’s because Harrah’s top executive Gary Loveman bought a 2.4 percent stake in the Celtics last year. Under NBA rules, Harrah’s was barred from accepting bets on the team.

The restriction means bets won’t be accepted at about a third of all sports books on the Las Vegas Strip, including Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bill’s, Harrah’s and the Rio.

The company also dropped betting lines at Harrah’s-branded casinos in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Laughlin and at Harveys Lake Tahoe.

It may be costly to sit out this series.

“This is the cream of the crop,” said Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book for Station Casinos. “This is what you hope to see in this type of situation. Two fabled franchises, two big markets, two hot teams with a lot of fan support.”

But analysts think the potential lost revenue will not be enough to affect Harrah’s bottom line.

“Sports gaming, while it’s important to the casino and provides a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions, the loss of wagers on the NBA Finals doesn’t really move the needle for Harrah’s,” Wachovia Capital Markets bond analyst Dennis Farrell Jr. said.

Farrell said sports wagering contributed 1.4 percent of total gaming revenue on the Strip in 2007.

Of that pool of money, the NBA ranks fourth behind pro and college football and college basketball in the amount of money wagered.

Harrah’s, the world’s largest gaming company by revenue, generated $10.8 billion in revenues last year.

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